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At Kick-Off, Harp Vows Principles Over “Politics”

by Thomas MacMillan | May 18, 2013 9:30 pm

(15) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Campaign 2013

As she formally launched her campaign for mayor amid balloons and cotton candy in Edgewood Park, state Sen. Toni Harp promised to build a “new New Haven” free of “political favoritism.”

Harp made that vow Saturday afternoon in Edgewood Park, where 250 people gathered under a sunny sky to take part in the launch of her bid to be New Haven’s next mayor, and the first female mayor in the city’s history. The crowd included many aldermen affiliated with the board’s labor-backed majority.

“I’m Toni Harp and I’m running to be the next mayor of this phenomenal city!” Harp pronounced to a cheering audience. She spoke from a portable stage, set up near the corner of West Rock and Whalley avenues.

Harp is one seven Democrats running to replace Mayor John DeStefano, who will step down at the end of the year after two decades in office.

Harp, a state senator since 1993, is seen by many as the presumed front-runner in the crowded field of candidates, which includes East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker, state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, former city development chief Henry Fernandez, former Chamber of Commerce head Matt Nemerson, Newhallville plumber Sundiata Keitazulu, and Hillhouse High Principal Kermit Carolina.

The Democratic primary election takes place Sept. 10. The first debate including all seven candidates, concerning economic development is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday at Davis Street School (35 Davis St.).

Harp made her announcement Saturday after a performance by a steel-drum band, vocal renditions of the national anthem and the Negro National Anthem, an invocation by a pastor, and remarks by state Sen. Martin Looney and several others. People rose to applaud as she stepped to the podium and a DJ played Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire.”

Thomas MacMillan Photo Harp listed some highlights of her 20-year career as a state senator: passing the strictest gun laws in the country after the Newtown massacre, passing a law to raise to 18 the age at which people can be tried as adults, working for early literacy programs, raising the minimum wage, fighting childhood obesity.

Harp said in New Haven, as at the state level, politics often gets in the way of solving problems. “Political favoritism has crept into economic development decisions,” she said. “For too long, political calculations prevented school reform.”

Harp noted she would be the first female mayor in the city’s 375-year history.

“My pledge is that politics is going to take a back seat in my administration,” she said. “Principles and good sound public policy will take the front seat.”

She pledged, as mayor, to work with, not “marginalize,” the Board of Aldermen, and to use her relationships with the state to “bring home the resources we need.”

Among other campaign pledges, Harp said: People who want to do business in town would have to hire New Haven residents; she would focus on neighborhoods beyond just downtown, continue education reform, and strengthen community policing and adult education.

“Together we will build a new New Haven with one set of rules for everyone,” she said.

Whitney Houston’s Olympics anthem, “One Moment In Time,” came on the loudspeakers as Harp finished her remarks.

A live steel-drum band started playing music before 11 a.m., followed by a DJ at noon. Red and white ballons and Toni Harp lawn signs ringed the corner of the park, where a pavilion and rows of folding chairs were set up in front of the stage.

People in Toni Harp T-shirts passed out Toni Harp stickers, while other volunteers registered voters and collected donations. Others handed out water and cotton candy. 

An ice-cream truck (pictured) was on hand as well as a food cart with grilled hot dogs and hamburgers.

While a passel of aldermen were in attendance, only a few formally proclaimed their support for Harp for mayor. Aldermen Mike Smart and Sal DeCola said they are supporting her. “I think she understands what the city needs,” said Smart.

Aldermen Brian Wingate, Tyisha Walker (at right in photo), and Jeanette Morrison (at left) showed up and claimed they are at this point undecided.  Other aldermen at the kick-off included Adam Marchand, Dolores Colon, Sarah Eidelson, Al Paolillo, Claudette Robinson-Thorpe, Santiago Berrios-Bones, and Frank Douglass.

Alderman Jorge Perez (at left in photo), president of the board, said, “I’m not supporting anyone at this point.” He said Harp’s was the first campaign kick-off he could attend, because it was on a Saturday. (Gary Holder-Winfield’s kick-off took place on a Saturday; the others took place on weeknights.)

Alderman Sergio Rodriguez, who’s running for city clerk, said he was there only as an observer. But Ron Smith (pictured), the current city clerk, who’s running to keep the job, said he’s a Harp supporter. He called Harp “a visionary.” Both men said they will be looking to join a mayoral candidate as a running mate in this year’s election.

Attorney and 2011 mayoral candidate Clifton Graves (at right in photo, with Ken Joyner) said he is supporting Harp. Her late husband Wendell Harp was a key backer of the Graves mayoral campaign two years ago. (Toni Harp endorsed him, too.) He said Harp, of all the mayoral candidates, has the “greatest reach” and most “cachet” in the city.

Keitazulu (pictured), who’s running for mayor this year, was the only one of Harp’s opposing candidates to show up.

State Rep. Bob Megna was on the scene, wearing a Toni Harp sticker. State Rep. Toni Walker shared the stage with Harp, as did state Sen. Looney. Looney (pictured) called Harp the best qualified mayoral candidate in New Haven history.

Many members of the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) were in the crowd. Vice-Chair Vinnie Mauro said he’s supporting Toni Harp: “I just think she’s got the best moral compass for the job.” Vice-Chair Carmen Reyes said she hasn’t made up her mind yet. The DTC will endorse a candidate in July.

Former police Lt. Kenny Howell drove down for the event from Worcester, Mass., where he’s now police chief. “I came down to support Toni.”

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posted by: formercommish on May 18, 2013  9:55pm

Tony Harp for Mayor, as a former commissioner in New Haven I can tell you that she is a breath of fresh air in this field of dreamers. I say GOOD LUCK Toni, you would make your supporters proud. I for one would love to see you become the next Mayor of New Haven, Good Luck and God bless you and your family.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on May 18, 2013  10:00pm

Clifton Graves said Toni Harp has the “most ‘cache’ in the city.” Cache is defined as a hiding place, especially one in the ground, for ammunition, food, treasures, etc. Perhaps he (or the editor) meant “cash”.  Harp:  “My pledge is that politics is going to take a back seat in my administration”. So I assume this is where the “cash” comes to play.

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 18, 2013  11:04pm

My question to Senator Harp:

How are you going to flush out NHPS?

It is the very definition of political favoritism and patronage.

I will tell you this—whoever can truly detoxify DeStefano’s and Mayo’s legacy will earn history’s favor.

But whoever allows this abominable handling of our youth to continue will only add to the chimera that is devouring our future.

posted by: Curious on May 18, 2013  11:22pm

1. That is a WHOLE lot of Local34-elected aldermen/women in attendance.

2. This would make me laugh if it wasn’t so twisted that it makes me cringe instead: state Sen. Toni Harp promised to build a “new New Haven” free of “political favoritism.”

How do you root out corruption while taking all kinds of private money with no disclosure?  You don’t.  Toni Harp is speaking out of both sides of her mouth.

posted by: YesWeCan on May 19, 2013  1:09am

Curious, I’d have to agree! there are a HECK of a lot local #34 aldermen… yeah right to politics taking a back seat.

Also look at this slew of things she is promising… does she have a means of getting us there and is she ready for that?? To be honest the day to day to do’s for a mayor is much more hefty than that of a senator, can she handle the pressure? If I was at the point in my career where she is now I’d be trying to retire not amp it up! (it makes me leery as to her motives)

also, most importantly… what will happen to our appropriations committee once she’s moved out of her seat (i mean if she moves out of her seat…)?

posted by: Tom Burns on May 19, 2013  2:28am

That was some great music—T

posted by: Noteworthy on May 19, 2013  9:19am

Las Vegas has arrived in New Haven. Where were the garish lights? Toni Harp’s core campaign message is Principle over Politics with solid public policy. If this is true, then Harp has had spontaneous Road to Damascus religious conversion.

Gun Control - Nearly every Assembly member has used and abused Newtown for political purposes. There is nothing in the new law that will affect urban violence despite having Looney/Harp/Walker et al playing politics with it. Three shot, one dead in the middle of the restaurant/club district last night. Where’s the principle?

Education - Politics stifled school reform? Really? No it didn’t. Apathy did. When money was waved in front of DeStefano, he had a conversion not unlike Harp, and as Yale’s Richard Levin correctly noted, DeStefano found religion. During all those years of apathy, Harp was silent even as the patronage dump grew at the expense of taxpayers. Where is the principle?

Democrat Town Committee - Harp has been an inside player for decades in the “connected” game of favoritism and collusion in the DTC. She is the privileged daughter of the system that blocks newcomers and trashes new ideas and new blood. That’s changed? Where’s the principle?

State Budget - Unbalanced, unstable, unpredictable in spending, taxes, fees and debt. Highest per capita debt in nation; highest gas tax in the nation; most taxed state in the nation; top ten on list of “death spiral” states; and a budget riddled with gimmicks, fake projections and broken promises to taxpayers. Harp’s own spending plan for the next two years violates the Constitution - Where precisely is the principle? Solid public policy?

Tax increase - At a time when the public is suffering from the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, lost jobs, lost and diminished incomes, Harp approved the largest tax increase in history and escalated state spending by more than a billion dollars with ZERO decrease in spending. Where is the principle?

posted by: markcbm on May 19, 2013  9:42am

@Christopher Schaefer:

Reading between the lines, I think the author of the article meant to write “cachet”, not cash or cache:

ca·chet
/kaˈSHā/
Noun

  The state of being respected or admired; prestige.
  A distinguishing mark or seal.

Synonyms
stamp - seal - signet - mark

[Editor: Our error. Thanks. Fixed it.]

posted by: tina tucci on May 19, 2013  11:58am

Either Mr. MacMillan misspelled it or Mr. Graves mispronounced it.  The word is “cachet” and unfortunately, in New Haven politics there’s not enough to go around.

posted by: Webblog1 on May 19, 2013  1:33pm

The single most important position statement(s) made thus far by Senator Harp, and not by any other candidate; is a pledge to do something to fix an area broken in New Haven government, and to fix, will result in a benefit for the city.

Her statement(s) of pledge:

1. “My pledge is that politics is going to take a back seat in my administration,” she said. “Principles and good sound public policy will take the front seat.”

2.She pledged, as mayor, to work with, not “marginalize,” the Board of Aldermen, and to use her relationships with the state to “bring home the resources we need.”

3.Among other campaign pledges, Harp said: People who want to do business in town would have to hire New Haven residents; she would focus on neighborhoods beyond just downtown, continue education reform, and strengthen community policing and adult education.

“Together we will build a new New Haven with one set of rules for everyone,” she said.

It is these statements of pledge that impressed me most over all feel good offerings the other candidate have made thus far.

Whether you like Toni or not… these ideas go directly to the root problem of what is preventing New Haven from moving forward together.

posted by: HhE on May 19, 2013  5:37pm

Well said, Curious and Noteworthy.

Webblong1, what Ms. Harp says, Gary and Justin do.

posted by: beyonddiscussion on May 19, 2013  11:20pm

Finally Toni Harp really seems to be in the race. This is a strong platform to run on, a combination of experience and decency. New Haven really needs a fresh start with a consensus builder. Will be interesting to see if she can prove she will be a strong leader. The debates with Fernandez will be very interesting.

posted by: Burbel on May 19, 2013  11:22pm

“Harp said: People who want to do business in town would have to hire New Haven residents;”

I have to limit myself to the skill sets already available in New Haven, or compel my employees to live here? Sorry, Madam Mayor, that is far more than any other municipality in this state requires of me. Good luck with that. I hear things are better… everywhere else.

This is business killing rhetoric. Worse, it betrays a lack of understanding about what the city needs, particularly what will make it an attractive destination for the entrepreneurs that can fuel a renaissance in New Haven.

posted by: OneCityManyDreams on May 20, 2013  1:17am

The Harpland rented the parkland.

You know the stuff that belongs to ALL of us.  So how much did that cost? 

And Why does the City let such a thing happen? 

How about a Freedom of Information request;just asking; too see what Harpland really paid for the show.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 20, 2013  3:56pm

OCMD,

I would assume that Senator Harp pulled a permit for use of Edgewood Park, and paid for the bandstand.  A simple FOI request to the Parks Department should clear up your questions.

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